The moment is here for the Baltimore Mariners to take the field during the post-season. For a franchise that has been around for only two seasons, the Mariners believe that they belong here.
The Mariners (9-5) are not the most dominating team on both sides of the ball, but more of a proud, opportunistic ball club that refuse to be dominated by any team. “The thing I’m proud about this team is that they haven’t been swept by any body this year,” said head coach Chris Simpson after being swept by a couple of teams last year. “We split a couple of games, but we either sweep them or split and that’s big for the position we are in.”
The best way to describe the Mariners is that they are balance, not flashy, after finishing 4-10 last season. The Mariners finished with the AIFA’s (American Indoor Football Association) leading rusher, running back Isaiah Grier (Rhode Island) who gained 514 yards and second with 20 touchdown rushes, led by quarterback, E.J. Nemeth (Sacred Heart) who knows when to strike at the right time. “The team’s mindset is to win it all,” said Grier. “Take one game at a time, one half at a time. My goal is to just continue to make plays and help my team to be the best we can be.” Special teams are solid, flat out with the best kicker, J.R. Cipra (Ohio Northern), who led all kickers with 191 points and 34 field goals, and a physical defense that play lights out football that had the league’s best, 42 interceptions with the best pick off guy, defensive back Armar Watson (17, Duquesne). Sounds familiar? “Both him and Richard Johnson (Virginia Tech) got a nose for the football,” said Simpson. “They both got great recovery speed. The quarterback got to throw the ball up and when they throw it up, it’s up for grabs and the only thing is to pick it off.”
The AIFA playoff scenario is set up for three rounds (the Division, July 3rd-5th, the Conference, July 10th-12th and the AIFA Championship, 19th-26th) with six teams.
The Mariners will be on the road for the first round on Thursday against the North Division champs, the Reading Express (11-3). The Mariners had a chance to be division champs and host the first round at the 1st Mariner Arena, but with the lost to the South Carolina Force, 38-62, two weeks ago killing their chances, not their confidence. “It’s good (making the playoffs) and right now when we play four quarters, I don’t believe anybody out there can beat us,” said Mariners’ wide receiver, Aaron Yarbough. “Together as a team, we keep winning and winning and there are down times, but we pick each other up and we come through.”
The Mariners are similar to their “big brother”, the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are not officiated with the Mariners, but supports them by having Captain Defense attend the games and from time to time, some Raven players come to watch and cheer for them. The Mariners had a hard hat, work pall mentality all season and now it’s time to work overtime (time and a half). The Mariners are focus and have three victories to go to set on the mountain top with big brother watching. “It’s a great feeling, man, just to know that they (the Ravens) care about what’s going on,” said Mariners’ linebacker, Fearon Wright. “It’s like big brother is watching and we want to make them proud.”